Israeli media reported yesterday that, according to a senior Israeli military source, Syria has deployed the world's most advanced anti-aircraft system. The system, purchased from Russia (and probably with Iranian funds), includes over 200 antiaircraft batteries of various types, including Russia's most advanced ground-to-air missiles, which are considered the cutting edge in aircraft interception technology. The race to purchase advanced anti-aircraft weapons is one of the most prominent manifestations of Syria's recent preparations for a renewed conflict with Israel. More details about the anti-aircraft system may be found here.
Putin's regime has now thrown its full weight of military support behind President Assad of Syria (photo above left), its Hezbollah client militia in Lebanon and its Iranian ally. In addition to the sales of advanced anti-aircraft equipment, the Russian Navy has reopened former Soviet bases on Syria's Mediterranean seacost. See "Russian Navy Returns to Syrian Ports," The Hedgehog Blog, August 6, 2007. Syria has returned the favor by rearming Hezbollah, whose leader, Hassan Nasrallah, now claims to have superior weaponry, and more of it, than prior to last summer's war, as reported by Ynet here. Although the UN peacekeeping force in Southern Lebanon has succeeded in keeping Hezbollah from returning to its former strongholds south of the Litani River, according to the Ynet story, The Sunday Telegraph has reported that Hezbollah has begun purchasing large tracts of land in Southern Lebanon, just north of the Litani River, possibly for installation of longer range missiles obtained from Iran through Syria. Nasrallah claims that Hezbollah's missiles are capable of reaching every Israeli city.
In this atmosphere of mounting military threats, the leaders of both Israel and Syria are publicly assuring one another that neither country wants to reopen hostilities, as reported today in the Jerusalem Post, including a speech in Lebanon by Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Shara. But al-Shara's speech must be considered in the light of reports that the Assad regime has marginalized Vice President al-Shara and that Foreign Minister Walid Moallem has been banned from hosting American, Arab and European officials, as recounted by Ynet here. Assad is increasingly being influenced by his brother-in-law, General Asef Shawkat, the head of Syrian military intelligence, who is counseling Assad that only war will bring Israel to the negotiating table with Syria. Shawkat reportedly is trying to drag Israel into a war in Lebanon, and possibly with Syria, next month.
It would be folly for Israel not to take that intelligence extremely seriously, and prepare for rocket attacks against its major cities.